From Bitcoin to Facebook, the economy of how we interact with money is changing. When was the last time you paid for something substantial with cash, or even a check? Technology has continued to make the process of receiving funds and making payments so much easier than ever before and with that, a need for new services to cater to a wide range of people.
What was once a novel service has become ingrained in many of our daily lives. Whether it is paying back a friend for lunch with Venmo, or sending invoices to clients with PayPal, we’ve come to expect the transferring of money to be as easy as possible. We’re a generation with expectations, and if paying for something becomes a hassle, then instead of bending around the merchant, many of us will simply find a similar product elsewhere.
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Because of this, companies are constantly looking for new, more convenient, ways to not only make it easier for the consumer, but keep them within their ecosystem at the same time.
Messaging platforms and social
We’re already spending over 50% of our mobile time on social networks and messaging platforms, so it only makes sense that companies are working to integrate this into their platforms. Not only can this be a convenience for the user, but it is a win-win, as companies love to see users spending more time on their services, and this is yet another way that keeps them within.
By now, we’re all familiar with Facebook Messenger accepting payments, but we’re starting to see more integrations with services like Skype. Through PayPal integration, you can quickly send and receive payments without ever having to leave the conversation. Even WhatsApp, now owned by Facebook, has started allowing payments and transfers in an effort to address competitors like WeChat.
In places like China, one of WeChat’s biggest usage points is their in-app payment service that allows users to pay for everything from dinner and entertainment, to rent and other bills, as well. In 2016, this was a $5 trillion market, so it only makes sense that platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp want to continue to capitalize on this growing market.
The growing shift for businesses
At one point, there was a coffee shop below my apartment building, with the keyword being “was.” You see, thanks to a lack of adaptation, this coffee shop had a minimum purchase amount that slowly killed their business (along with the subpar coffee). When asked why, the owner simply stated that it was because of credit card fees. One, I’m still not sure that justified a $5 minimum, but two, why not look into alternative methods?
The number of avenues for business owners continues to grow and we’re at a time where customer convenience can be the difference between someone visiting your shop or online store and them simply looking elsewhere. With options like Stripe and Worldpay, business owners are opening up new avenues for customer convenience. Just last week, I purchased a burrito with the Square app. If I had been charged a minimum or required cash, my food choice would have instantly been different, as it would for many in the millenial and under range.
On the flip side, businesses are also looking for more efficient methods for dealing with money and payments. Virtual credit cards continue to grow in popularity thanks to their ease-of-use, and in many cases, cheaper fees and rates. There are even companies like Spendesk and Teampay beginning to pop up to help with these types of services, as well.
Spendesk is essentially an overall account for your business that you load money into and issued virtual cards draw from it. For places like France, where it is a pain to write off expenses, your employees can use these virtual cards in place of getting reimbursed for every single purchase. It can also help streamline for accounting and finance departments by putting these expenses all in one place. Teampay is similar and offers integrations with services like Slack to improve the virtual card workflow for teams and businesses. There is added benefit when you take into account that virtual cards through these types of services can be “turned off” when dealing with an employee leaving the company where small recurring charges attached to that employee may go unnoticed after departure.
Cryptocurrencies as a payment method
We’re already starting to see companies accepting cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether to complete orders, but we are still far from the mass adoption needed for it to be a truly viable option. There are multiple reasons for this, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t startups and companies looking for ways to integrate blockchain and crypto into applicable services.
The problem with using crypto (at present) for purchases is that it’s still too new and the values of a single BTC or ETH can have huge swings from week to week, or even day to day, making it difficult to really put a value on the purchase. You also have to deal with processing times and miner fees that add additional hurdles. This will most likely change as we find better processes, but there is still a place for cryptocurrencies as a payment method.
There is a growing number of services and platforms built on blockchain that utilize utility tokens that work within their ecosystem to buy, sell, and trade assets. While everyone is still trying to figure out the usages for the big cryptocurrencies, these types of platforms are creating a much easier, understandable use of alternate blockchain-based tokens. The gaming industry has been a huge target for startups, as most of it is based in virtual assets to begin with.
Companies like DMarket and BitGuild are creating game economies through the use of blockchain and tokenization to make entire ecosystems for trading in-game items and earning blockchain-based tokens to purchase items from other players and pay for additional content from developers. This is not to say mainstream cryptocurrencies are being left behind, as many are built on established systems like the Ethereum blockchain. Rarebits is one such example, as it functions as an eBay-style marketplace for digital assets like CryptoKitties and Celebrities that allows users to buy digital, collectible game assets from platforms built on the Ethereum blockchain.
While we may still be years away from seeing true crypto implementation into our daily lives, it doesn’t change the fact that technology is continuing to make the process of exchanging money and value evolve in new, exciting ways for both individuals and businesses, alike.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.